To comply with state environmental regulations, the Regional Water Resources Agency is seeking to dramatically increase rates to fund a roughly $100 million project to upgrade its wastewater treatment facilities.
Additionally, some of Owensboro’s major mills are being forced to make modifications to help relieve overworked RWRA mills.
Two of RWRA’s largest industrial companies, food producer Mizkan and Glenmore Distillery, told the Messenger-Inquirer they have pledged to invest $34 million in upgrading their own pre-processing facilities, which will will reduce the strength of the wastewater they send to the agency’s factories.
RWRA’s comprehensive 20-year master plan — which outlines how the agency plans to operate over the next two decades — includes details about why Mizkan and Glenmore made these commitments.
According to the October 2020 master plan, RWRA’s David Hawes Wastewater Treatment Plant had had regulatory compliance issues with the state for more than five years prior to the publication of the report.
The Messenger-Inquirer has previously flagged these compliance issues, which underlie the need to upgrade facilities.
“The majority of these concerns have been the result of [David Hawes plant] tributary load overruns due to two industrial customers, Mizkan and Glenmore. The composition of these customers’ waste creates dynamic variations in [David Hawes plant’s] biological process that makes it very difficult to maintain compliance,” the blueprint states.
The report explained that “biochemical oxygen demand” – a measure of the degree of organic pollution in a water source – accounted for up to 150% of the design capacity of the David Hawes plant in 2018 and 2019. led to operational problems such as poor settling. , poor treatment and violations of effluent limits, according to the report.
The report also explained that the David Hawes plant had particular difficulty processing the fats, oils and greases from Mizkan, as well as the highly volatile fatty acids from Glenmore.
The RWRA sent Mizkan and Glenmore at least three warning letters each for allegedly violating the terms of their permits, but did not fine the companies, according to the blueprint. Instead, the parties negotiated for the companies to upgrade their pre-treatment facilities to remove more greases, acids and other materials from their wastewater before sending it to the RWRA.
To this end, the companies say they have invested millions of dollars.
Glenmore told the Messenger-Inquirer it has invested $19 million in a pre-treatment plant, which should be operational by the end of the year – sooner than expected, according to the company.
“Once RWRA informed the Glenmore Distillery that it no longer had the capacity to treat Glenmore’s raw sewage, Glenmore worked alongside RWRA to design a solution to maintain water quality standards.
As a long-term solution, Glenmore has committed to constructing a state-of-the-art wastewater pre-treatment plant on its site that will pre-treat Glenmore’s industrial effluent below Glenmore’s wastewater license limits,” Glenmore said in a written statement.
Similarly, Mizkan said it invested $5 million in upgrades and earmarked another $10 million.
“In Phase 1 of our plan, Mizkan spent over $5 million to install new equipment and storage tanks that allow us to store more wastewater onsite, which can then be treated to better control solids in wastewater discharged into the RWRA. Phase 1 lasted approximately 14 months and was recently completed,” Mizkan said in a written statement.
“Phase 2 of our plan has been approved and construction is expected to begin by the end of the year. For this phase, Mizkan has earmarked an additional $10 million to install new equipment that will further treat wastewater to separate fats, oils and greases before discharge into the RWRA. We currently estimate that this project will take approximately one year to complete.
RWRA executive director Joe Schepers told The Messenger-Inquirer that his agency and local industries have a “long history” of working together to address issues such as overburdened sewage treatment plants.
“Glenmore Distillery and Mizkan appreciate their environmental responsibilities to our community and partner with RWRA in our vision to foster safe and healthy community waterways for future generations,” he said in a written statement.
But while the improvements at Glenmore and Mizkan will help ease the burden on RWRA’s wastewater treatment plants, major upgrades are still needed, according to RWRA.
RWRA will tour the two plants – the David Hawes plant and the Max N. Rhoads water reclamation facility – on September 19 as it prepares to present its proposed rate increases to the Rates Review Board. prices in December.
Planned rate increases include a 31% increase that will take the average customer bill from $47.37 per month to $61.85 next July, followed by a 6% increase in 2024, consecutive increases 4% in 2025 and 2026, and an increase of 3% in 2027.